As tense South Australians swirled around Unley Shopping Centre on Wednesday afternoon trying to figure out what to buy for their first full lockdown – “screw essentials, I need ice-cream!” – council worker Anne Ross was standing in the long queue for the supermarket, calmly preparing for her third time around.
Ross had secured an exemption to enter SA from her home state of Victoria several weeks earlier, escorted by police to Adelaide, so she could grieve with relatives after her mother died.
Little did she anticipate how the tables would turn. “Now I’m stuck here,” she tells Guardian Australia with a laugh.
Ross hopes the six-day lockdown announced for SA on Wednesday doesn’t develop into the marathon she experienced at home.
“I think South Australia is in a fortunate position, in that they can learn from what happened in Victoria,” she says.
The daily press conferences are a similar experience, but the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, has been swapped out for his South Australian counterpart, Steven Marshall, and in place of Victoria’s chief health officer, Prof Brett Sutton, is SA’s calm voice of scientific authority, Prof Nicola Spurrier.
The biggest difference Ross has noticed in the response so far has been in the detail of the contact-tracing announcements “right down to the number of minutes someone was in a particular location”.
Spurrier has been able to provide the public with a detailed breakdown of possible transmission sites across Adelaide.
Dr Stephen Duckett, the health program director for the Grattan Institute, agrees South Australia has had an opportunity to learn from other states.
“NSW was the first to do tracing of contacts at the second level, they shared this with Victoria, and now we see it in South Australia,” he says. “There’s a good network of sharing experiences between the states.”
SA approaches it like this. Once SA Pathology has processed a positive case, it immediately alerts the SA Health contact-tracing team, which attempts to call the patient within a few hours.
In detailed phone interviews, the contact tracer records who the patient came into contact with and where they went.
Contacts of positive cases receive daily messages or phone calls to find out if symptoms have developed, to determine if they need to get tested.
The investigation into the cluster that has since shut down the state began after a woman in her 80s presented to the Lyell McEwin hospital with symptoms on Friday evening.
She tested positive, and contact tracers identified that her daughter worked as a cleaner at the Peppers quarantine hotel, where she is believed to have contracted the virus from a contaminated surface.
The cleaner also infected two security guards. None of the hotel quarantine workers exhibited any symptoms, but passed the virus on to their family members.
One day after the positive case was identified, Spurrier was able to provide the public with